It has been argued that the level of individual actualizing
contributes to not only the success of the individual, but also to the
success of the organization. The present study used a profile analysis
to examine the relationship between corporate organizational levels and
reported degree of self-actualizing as measured by the Personal
Orientation Inventory for 149 managers and employees spanning four
corporate hierarchical levels. It was found that the individuals in the
different hierarchical levels did exhibit parallel POI profile patterns
but did not exhibit different levels of actualizing. Individuals at the
higher organizational levels rated their job as more important than did
those at lower levels. The level of self-actualizing was correlated to
job satisfaction regardless of the hierarchical level, and level of
actualizing was correlated to type of work environment. Implications for
the psychological and business disciplines are discussed.
The relationship between individual motivation and performance in
the corporate work environment has been of interest to psychologists for
decades, as evidenced by the writings of Deci and Ryan (2000), Herzberg
(1966), Maslow (1971), McClelland (1984), and McGregor (1960). More
recently, this relationship has been elaborated by business theorists,
such as de Geus (1997, 1997a), Garfield (1986), and Senge, Kleiner,
Roberts, Ross, and Smith (1994), who view individual motivation and
growth as a vital factor for effective business performance. However,
some of these theorists (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Garfield, 1986;
Herzberg, 1966; Maslow, 1971; McGregor, 1960; Smither, 1984) have
expressed concerns that many corporate environments have frustrated or
even diminished individual motivation, thereby decreasing overall
organizational performance. These theorists have argued that unless
organizations created the opportunities for personal development, the
potential for organizational growth would be limited or stifled. If
employees have been operating at only a fraction of their potential, as
some researchers have argued (Garfield, 1992; Ladenberger, 1970; Wilson
& Wilson, 1998), businesses could have increased their productivity
either by increasing the employees' individual performances, or by
more fully utilizing this untapped employee potential. It has been
asserted for decades that business leaders could have unleashed this
potential by allowing employees to become more fully functioning
individuals (McGregor, 1960; Garfield, 1992). These leaders may have
achieved higher productivity and performance if they created an
organizational environment that supported what Maslow (1971) described
Maslow (1971) identified people who are self-actualizing as those
who engage in work as something they love, so much so that, for them,
the traditional dichotomy between the drudgery of work and the
experience of joy disappeared. Shostrom (1987) elaborated on
Maslow's original descriptions of the self-actualizing person as
one who is more fully functioning, actively developing and utilizing all
of his or her unique capabilities or potentialities.
Research findings have suggested that the level of individual
actualization contributed not only to the success of the individual but
also to the success of the organization. A number of studies in
industrial settings have investigated these relationships. Ladenberger
(1970) found a relationship between individual self-actualizing and the
hierarchical level of the individual within an organization. Lessner and
Knapp (1974) found what appeared to be a relationship between the
self-actualizing characteristics of the entrepreneur and the growth of
the firm. Margulies (1969) identified a relationship between an
organization's culture and the level of employee self-actualizing.
It is clear that research literature provided some support for the
argument that the level of individual self-actualizing is beneficial to
both the individual and to the individual's organization.
Margulies' (1969) research investigated self-actualization as it
related to organizational climate and culture, but not as it related to
hierarchical level. What remains unclear is the degree to which this
relationship holds at all hierarchical levels within organizations.
Ladenberger (1970) examined the levels of self-actualizing of only the
top and middle management levels, but recommended the addition of other
segments of the working population.
The current study was undertaken to further explore this
relationship between individual self-actualizing and level of
organizational responsibility by examining levels of self-actualization
at four functional (hierarchical) levels, from worker to top management,
within hierarchical organizations.
There were two facets to this investigation. One facet addressed
the actualizing characteristics of individuals at different functional
levels within an organization. Another aspect evaluated the relationship
between leader and employee self-actualization, to address the issue of
whether functional level or organizational role is related to individual
Three separate hypotheses were proposed:
Hypothesis 1. Based on Margulies' (1969) findings that
organizational culture impact employee self-actualizing, it was expected
that the profiles or subscale elevation patterns of self-actualization
for the four organizational hierarchical levels will be parallel. In
other words, the shapes of the calculated profiles, independent of the
degree of self-actualizing, will be the same for all organizational
Hypothesis 2. Following Ladenberger's (1970) conclusion that
individual self-actualizing is related to hierarchical level within an
organization, it was hypothesized that overall levels of personal
self-actualization will be greater at higher functional levels in the
Hypothesis 3. Acknowledging the limits on personal expression noted
by Garfield (1986), Herzberg (1966), and Maslow (1971), it was
anticipated that the level of self-actualization at higher hierarchical
levels will limit the degree of self-actualization possible at lower
functional levels within organizations. Therefore, the highest degree of
self-actualization will appear at the highest organizational level.
Participation was requested from several industrial and
manufacturing corporations. The corporations selected were based on the
senior researcher's professional contact with employees of these
organizations. Company size varied from several hundred to several
thousand. Participation was purely voluntary, with overall respondent
selection being based on adventitious availability of individuals.
Sampling was designed, and subsequent requests for participation made,
with the expressed intent of obtaining participants in all of the
organizational levels. The participants did not receive extra
compensation or monetary remuneration for participation. In accordance
with APA ethical principles, there was no penalty for nonparticipation.
A total of 230 instruments were distributed with 149 returned
(65%). Since organizational level was captured only as part of the
completed instrument, the number of individuals at each organizational
level that were requested to participate is not known. The
organizational levels (and the final sample sizes for each level) were
defined in accordance with these criteria:
Top Management--Presidents, vice presidents, heads of large
divisions, and company officers (n=11);
Middle Management--Persons above the first level of supervision but
below vice president, company officer, or major department head (n=54);
Front-line Supervision--Professional, or first level of supervision
of either professionals, non-exempts, or hourly employees (n=54); and
Worker (n=30)--Personnel in non-management positions who perform
clerical or technician-type duties and must be paid overtime.
These levels were chosen to span the entire range of corporate
hierarchy while providing meaningful categorizations of the levels.
A Demographic Information Questionnaire (DIQ), requested
information about age, gender, birth order, level of education, marital
status, level within the organization, years at that organizational
level, and estimated years to retirement. It also asked participants to
evaluate personal aspects of their lives (family, work/job/career, and
social) in terms of importance, satisfaction and performance.
The Personal Orientation Inventory (POI; Shostrom, 1987), based on
Maslow's concept of self-actualization, was chosen as the measure
of self-actualization. It consists of 150 two-choice comparative value
and behavior judgments (Shostrom, 1987) yielding 12 subscales measuring
elements of self-actualizing. The twelve subscales, with a sample
statement for each (Shostrom, 1987) are listed below. The reliability of
the subscales ranges from 0.52 to 0.82 (Shostrom, 1987). Shostrom (1990)
asserted that, in general, the test-retest coefficients of the POI are
at a level commensurate with other personality inventories and
constitute a reasonable presumption of reliability. The POI was
developed by Shostrom to differentiate self-actualized from
non-self-actualized individuals according to differences in their
beliefs and value orientations (Knapp, 1990). Shostrom (1987) has
summarized extensive studies demonstrating the validity of the POI. It
discriminates between individuals who have been observed in their life
behavior to have attained a relatively high level of self-actualizing
from those who have not evidenced such development. Results indicated
that the POI significantly discriminates between clinically judged
self-actualizing and non-self-actualizing groups on 11 of 12 scales.
Further validation of the conceptual foundations of the POI has been
reported for teachers, students, entrepreneurs, and managers in a large
number of research studies summarized by Knapp (1990).
In addition, Maslow (1971) himself, addressed the development, and
original publication, of the POI as a measure of self-actualization,
labeling it as a reasonably valid measure of his own construct.
"... there is today a standardized test of self-actualization.
Self-actualization can now be defined quite operationally, as
intelligence used to be defined, i.e., self-actualization is what that
test tests. It correlates well with external variables of various kinds,
and keeps on accumulating additional correlational meanings"
(Maslow, 1971, p.28).
The request for participants was made either in face-to-face
contacts or small group activities such as staff meetings at the
respondents' places of employment. Each participant then received
an envelope containing the DIQ, the POI and a POI response sheet. The
participants were then requested to complete the instruments at their
leisure and return them in the envelope provided.
Participants were requested to think only about their employment
situations when responding to the POI questions. To reinforce this
salience, the phrase "THINK WORK" appeared on each POI
response sheet in large bold type. To guarantee employee security and
anonymity, no participant was identifiable by name or by any other
There was one particular group of participants that made an
unprompted request to view their groups' aggregate results. This
group described themselves as having a participative type of management
where some of the traditional hierarchical formalities were minimized or
non-existent, a structure advocated by both Maslow (1971) and Herzberg
(1966) and therefore believed their results might be different from
those of other participants. To accommodate this request, participants
from this group were asked to indicate their membership in this group on
their DIQ. Demographic data from the DIQ and results from the POI were
matched using the numeric codes. The POI response sheets were
hand-scored. Once scored, an individual profile for each participant was
constructed and made available to interested participants.
Summarized self-actualization profiles from POI results were
created for each organizational level from the individual profiles. A
profile analysis was conducted on the summarized profiles to evaluate
for parallelism and overall difference in levels. Data for the four
hierarchical categories from the current study were also aggregated into
one overall profile to compare with profiles from past research.
Profile analysis is an application of multivariate analysis of
variance (MANOVA) in which several dependent variables are measured
simultaneously (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996). The major question
addressed by profile analysis is whether group profiles, in this case
the four different hierarchical levels, are similar to or different from
each other on a set of measures. For evaluation of parallelism, all
measures are required to have the same range of possible scores, with
the same score value having the same meaning on all the measures. Due to
differences in the scales of the POI subscales, Shostrom (1987)
recommended that scores be standardized to T scores (normally
distributed scores with a mean of 50 and standard deviation of 10).
Accordingly, T scores were used for all statistical analyses.
Other analyses were conducted during the current study to examine
the relationship of level of actualizing to (a) the importance of the
participant's work/job/career; (b) the participant's rating of
job satisfaction; and (c) the work environment.
Differences in the rating of the importance of work/job/career by
hierarchical level were assessed via ANOVA. A profile analysis was then
conducted to compare the POI profile for each of the five levels of
response for work/job/career satisfaction. Correlational analysis was
used to compare the average POI score (sum of the subscales/12) versus
the work/job/career satisfying question. A profile analysis was
performed on the aggregated results from the participants in the
self-identified participative management group versus an aggregated
profile of all other participants.
The means and standard deviations for each hierarchical level and
subscale are presented in Table 1. The first hypothesis, that profile
patterns would be parallel, was supported statistically. As expected,
the profile analysis showed no significant interactions among the
profiles for the hierarchical levels, F(3, 145) = 1.10, p = ns,
indicating that the profiles or subscale elevation patterns for the four
hierarchical levels were essentially parallel. In addition, the shape of
the aggregated profile, from the combination of the four hierarchical
categories, paralleled the shapes of the profiles observed by
Ladenberger (1970). This relationship is presented in Figure 1.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The second hypothesis, that overall levels of personal
self-actualization will be greater at higher functional levels in the
organization, was not supported by the current study. The profile
analysis showed no difference in the level of self-actualization by
hierarchical level, F(3,145) = 1.18, p = ns.
The third hypothesis, that the level of self-actualization at
higher hierarchical levels would limit the degree of self-actualization
possible within the organization, was also not supported. Since there
were no significant overall differences among the profile elevations for
the four levels, F(3,145) = 1.18, p = ns, the profile elevations for top
management were not higher than the elevations at other levels. Thus,
the level of self-actualization at lower functional levels did not
appear to be limited by the organizations' leaders.
The participants' rating of importance of their
work/job/career, differed by hierarchical level, F(3, 145) = 3.58, p
< .02, with uniformly higher ratings by those at higher
organizational levels. Top management rated work/job/career as
significantly more important (M = 4.45) than did both front-line
management (M = 3.89), p < .03, and non-exempt (M = 3.90), p <
.02. Middle management rated work/job/career more important (M = 4.20)
than did front-line management (M = 3.89), p < .02. These results are
shown in Table 2.
The profile analysis evaluating overall POI profile elevation for
the response given for the participant's satisfaction with their
work/job/career did show statistical significance F(3,143) = 2.56, p
In general, participants who rated their work/job/career as
extremely or very satisfying exhibited subscale elevations higher than
those that rated their work/job/career as only somewhat or not at all
satisfying. The correlation of average POI scores versus the
participant's rating of how satisfying they found their
work/job/career also showed statistical significance, r(147) = .17, p
The plot of the aggregated profile for the participative management
group (n=22) versus the profile for all others (n=127), indicated that 9
out of the 12 subscales trended toward higher elevations.
By examining levels of self-actualization at four organizational
levels, this study further explored the relationship between individual
self-actualizing and level of organizational responsibility. These
hypothesized relationships between hierarchical organizational level and
level of self-actualizing were partially supported by the current study.
As Hypothesis 1 stated, profiles for the four hierarchical levels were
parallel, exhibiting consistent elevation patterns. However,
hierarchical level within an organization did not prove to be related to
the level of self-actualizing, as anticipated by Hypothesis 2, nor did
the higher organizational levels limit the level of actualizing seen at
lower hierarchical levels as predicted by Hypothesis 3. While the
smaller number of participants at the top organizational level could
contribute to a lack of significant findings, an examination of the
average profile scores does not support this proposition.
The current study does not support the conclusions reached by
Ladenberger (1970) who reported significant differences in profile
elevations between top and middle management levels. Two differences
between the current study and past research could account for the
difference in findings. First, Ladenberger (1970) differed in her method
of participant selection, which may have introduced a significant source
of bias in her respondent sample. Her participants were specifically
selected on the basis of defined criteria by an international
management-consulting firm instead of through a request for volunteers
from the general corporate population. In the prior study, top
management participants included not only the heads of hierarchical
organizations but entrepreneurs as well. Middle management participants
were selected only if judged that they would remain at their current
level and move no higher. Ladenberger's selection process may have
provided a biased sample of participants that were widely disparate from
the overall population of employees that exist in hierarchical
organizations. A second difference was the method of analysis. The
current study used a profile analysis, an advanced statistical technique
that evaluated the data for overall profile differences to greatly
reduce the possibility of accepting a difference as real. Ladenberger
(1970) relied on multiple t-tests to analyze for differences in each
subscale, testing for significant differences among a large number of
pairs, thus generating a far greater possibility of Type I errors than
the far more robust profile analysis procedure.
Despite these differences, the shape of the aggregated profile from
the current research parallels the shapes of the profiles observed by
Ladenberger (1970). This relationship is presented in Figure 1. The
apparent similarity in profile patterns from the current sample and from
Ladenberger's findings suggests that corporate profiles may be
uniquely distinct from the profiles of noncorporate populations.
Profiles presented from research on priests (Greely, 1970; as cited in
Knapp, 1990) and teachers (Lafferty, 1969 as cited in Knapp, 1990)
exhibit very different profile shapes than the profile shapes shown by
current or past research on corporations. Thus, the aggregate scores for
the present study, and by extrapolation, the data from Ladenberger
(1970), suggest that there may very well be a distinct "corporate
profile" and that employees who choose to work in a hierarchical
organization will conform to this profile.
The results indicating that individuals at higher organizational
levels rated their work/job/career as more important raise an
interesting paradox insofar as a group rating work as more important
would not necessarily demonstrate a higher level of self-actualizing.
The results provided evidence for a relationship between a
satisfying work/job/career and level of self-actualizing. This would
indicate that a higher level of self-actualizing may be observed in
people who find their work more satisfying, in accordance with
Maslow's (1971) theory.
In addition, the finding that the participative management group
tended toward higher subscale elevations supports past research by
Margulies (1969), in which he identified the environment, including the
work environment, as one factor essential for self-actualizing.
Overall, the current study's respondents' level of
self-actualizing was not related to hierarchical level within an
organization, or to the importance of work to the individual. Thus,
although people in a top management position may have more
responsibility and authority and may rate work as more important than
those at lower hierarchical levels may, top management did not seem to
exhibit a higher level of self-actualizing. However, this study did not
address whether changes in the level of self-actualizing might occur as
a result of a person being promoted and progressing upward through the
organizational levels. The current level of self-actualizing appeared to
be correlated with how satisfying one finds one's work/job/career
and to the type of work environment, regardless of the individual's
hierarchical level. These findings are in accordance with the concept
underlying the development of the POI, which was to differentiate
individuals based on their beliefs and value orientations rather than
provide a quantification of growth motivation (Knapp, 1990).
Self-actualization, as one of the major constructs of humanistic
psychology (Jones & Crandall, 1991), continues to be a topic
requiring further study and clarification (Leclerc, Lefrancois, Dube,
Hebert, & Gaulin, 1998; McLeod & Vodanovich, 1991). While the
results from the present research do not support self-actualization as a
critical measure for organizational performance, the actual relationship
between the level of actualizing and organizational productivity or
business performance is still undetermined.
Future research could further explore the apparent relationship
between job satisfaction and self-actualization. Longitudinal studies
could determine the direction of the cause-and-effect relationship
between self-actualization and job satisfaction, whether
self-actualizing individuals tend to find their jobs more satisfying or
if the opposite is true, that job satisfaction increases the level of
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Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: John M. Mahoney,
Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond,
VA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hester L. Dorer and John M. Mahoney
Virginia Commonwealth University
Inner Directed "I believe it is important to accept others
Support as they are."
Time Competence "I do not have feelings of resentment about
"I feel dedicated to my work."
Self-Actualizing "I feel dedicated to my work."
Existentially "I am not concerned with self-improvement
at all times."
Feeling Reactivity "I do not feel ashamed of my emotions."
Spontaneity "There are many times when it is more important
to express feelings than to carefully
evaluate the situation."
Self-Regard "I feel certain and secure in my relationships
Self-Acceptance "I can accept my mistakes."
Nature of "A person can never change their own essential
Synergy "For me, past, present and future is in
Acceptance of "As they are, people sometimes annoy me."
Capacity for "I can let other people control me."
TABLE 1 Mean and Standard Deviation for POI Subscales by Corporate
Top Middle Front-Line
Management Management Supervision
(n=11) (n=54) (n=54)
M SD M SD M
Time Competence 41.3 12.6 44.3 8.6 43.7
Inner Directed 45.4 7.1 46.4 7.0 45.7
Self-Actualizing 52.7 5.2 51.6 7.2 51.5
Existentiality 40.4 7.5 41.2 8.9 41.8
Feeling Reactivity 47.3 9.1 48.4 8.2 46.5
Spontaneity 51.9 10.3 52.1 9.7 50.5
Self-Regard 48.3 11.2 53.0 8.3 53.2
Self-Acceptance 43.8 8.8 43.8 7.3 43.0
Nature of Man, 47.9 7.1 49.5 8.5 48.9
Synergy 47.5 12.9 48.3 8.9 50.4
Acceptance of 50.1 6.8 47.3 7.8 47.3
Capacity for 46.9 8.0 44.5 9.9 45.6
(n=54) (n=30) Aggregate
SD M SD M SD
Time Competence 10.8 42.7 11.6 43.6 10.3
Inner Directed 7.9 44.0 6.6 45.6 7.3
Self-Actualizing 9.5 48.8 8.1 51.1 8.2
Existentiality 7.8 41.6 8.7 41.4 8.3
Feeling Reactivity 8.3 45.6 8.7 47.1 8.4
Spontaneity 9.1 49.9 8.1 51.1 9.2
Self-Regard 8.9 51.7 7.1 52.5 8.6
Self-Acceptance 8.6 42.8 7.0 43.3 7.8
Nature of Man, 9.2 43.3 8.3 47.9 8.9
Synergy 8.7 42.5 9.9 47.8 9.7
Acceptance of 8.3 45.1 8.1 47.1 8.0
Capacity for 8.6 44.4 8.2 45.0 8.9
TABLE 2 Rating of Work/Job/Career Importance by Hierarchical Level
Level Important Significance *
M p < .05
Top Management 4.45 ab
Middle Management 4.20 c
Front-Line Supervision 3.89 bc
Worker 3.90 a
* Common letters indicate where a significant difference exists.